I Bought (Another) House – Wait, Why?

I Bought (Another) House – Wait, Why?

… or Shut-up State Farm, Your “Nevers” Commercial is Wrong!

A few years ago, I moved out of my house in the ‘burbs into an old apartment in the ceetee. No longer did I have to brave a 45-60 minute commute to dahntahn or have excuses for not going out after getting home in the evening. I once took a bus home at 2:00 AM after a party. It was a new lease on life and I swore I would never buy again. I was free and unmoored; the world was my oyster!

Today, I closed on a new purchase in the Mt Washington neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Wait, what? … I got bored. And at least it’s not in the suburbs, right? Right.

No matter the allure of the jet-setting modern life, as breathlessly hyped by the media, I don’t think humans will ever stop searching for community in some fashion. It’s why we get to know the local bartender or recognize the same food delivery persons. Why we make friends with neighbors we wouldn’t have otherwise befriended. Why we stop to pet the same dog almost every morning. Why we yearn for old friends to move back to the old homestead.

Why we buy a house in our hometown even while wondering how nice it would be to live in Dubai.
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Craft… Or the Unexpected Virtue of Working at Your Work

Craft… Or the Unexpected Virtue of Working at Your Work

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of Craft. Of taking what we do and really working on it. Really incorporating skill into a pursuit, be it trivial in nature or not. And how, in this credentialist world, we can often give short shrift to training and deep work in areas which do not require a post-secondary or post-undergraduate degree.

First, Break All the RulesOne of the best books I’ve ever read is First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham and Curtis Coffman. In it, they talk about how great managers minimize their employees’ weaknesses while working on and enhancing their strengths. There’s a section that details how managers of hotels, for instance, work on rewarding their best cleaning staff, the ones who pay special attention to the little details, such as folding a triangle into the ends of toilet paper or putting the little chocolates on the pillow just so, instead of flinging them anywhere on the bed.

It isn’t something we think about much, the idea that being part of the cleaning staff or working the receptions desk at a hotel can be a learned and nurtured skill, at least beyond basic courtesy. But high-end hotels and other well-run establishments pride themselves on hundreds of these details.

The issue comes down to which positions do we feel utilize what combinations of talent vs hard work. There’s no doubt that it can be difficult to be on the cleaning staff. It’s largely a thankless job and although it may be menial, it is no more worthy of thought and good planning and execution. It’s safe to say that while any one person may be capable of doing this work for a short period, doing it for years is not something that comes easy. Menial labor takes anything but a menial mindset. Read more about Craft… Or the Unexpected Virtue of Working at Your Work

There are No Moral Dilemmas in Canine Police Work

There are No Moral Dilemmas in Canine Police Work

Pittsburgh K-9 Officer Rocco
Pittsburgh K-9 Officer Rocco

Recently, Rocco, a K-9 Officer who works here in Pittsburgh was fatally stabbed by a 21-year-old man with a criminal record and a reported history of mental illness, while police were attempting to serve him with warrants for his arrest. The death sparked an outcry throughout the city. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger reached out to Rocco’s handler, Officer Phil Lerza, and through his foundation is even providing a new K9 for Officer Lerza. Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto ordered flags to be flown at half-staff. Other politicians called for harsher penalties for those who harm police animals.

Personally, I was gutted by the news. You read about something like this and it makes you hug your dog just a little bit tighter. (Oreo was not amused by the extra attention). Even looking at that picture of Rocco makes me sad. I can only imagine the anguish that Officer Lerza is (still) enduring.

The Pittsburgh City Paper asked several prominent animal-rights advocates what they made of the whole ordeal. “If it’s wrong to kill a dog, is it wrong to eat a chicken? Or to put the dog in harm’s way in the first place?”

I thought this bit from Jason Hribal, animal historian, was nutso:

You can say they’re heroic, but what are the [police] dogs getting out of it? If the dog really sacrificed his life, other dogs should be compensated. They [should] have a representative within the union that could take on these issues. There should be some money set aside so [dogs] get retirement.

Also, from bio-ethicist Peter Singer:

We should give the same consideration to the interests of an animal as we would give to similar interests of our own. But I do think that our greater ability to reflect on our lives … makes a difference to our interest in avoiding death. I don’t think a dog has as great an interest in avoiding death as we do.

Nutso. This is just more of the same anthropomorphic bullsh that animal rights activists get into when they stop seeing dogs as dogs. Our supposed ‘greater ability to reflect on our lives’ also makes a difference to our sometimes disinterest in avoiding death. But just as humans will risk their lives for their children, so too will dogs (and other animals). The idea that a dog doesn’t have as great an interest in avoiding death as we do is, to me, absurd.

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Design Work in Pittsburgh

Design Work in Pittsburgh

Recently, Pittsburgh has come into the new for its resurgence due to the twin towers of healthcare and hi-tech. Google has offices here and is expanding. CMU and Pitt do a lot of cutting-edge research in hi-tech and medicine.UPMC is one of the top medical centers in the country.

I know that when when some folks think of hi-tech, they don’t necessarily think of the creative fields. They think of boring coding. Oh that’s a wrong notion, isn’t it? YES.

CMU, for instance, also has fantastic design programs. Bloomfield and Lawrenceville have thriving artistic scenes. Pittsburgh Filmmakers has done some great work in luring movie studios to use Pittsburgh in their shoots. I was actually part of the filming of the stadium scene from The Dark Knight Rises!

Still, I have friends who’ve left Pittsburgh to pursue creative work in New York City and Los Angeles. So I wanted to relay two instances of companies doing creative work in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh at dawn
Pittsburgh at dawn
The first is Derse. Derse isn’t headquartered in Pittsburgh but they do have offices here and are expanding. Derse focuses on face-to-face marketing at trade shows, marketing environment and event programs. They were ranked by Advertising Age magazine as one of the World’s Top 50 Agency Companies, and Top 50 U.S. Promotion and Event Marketing Agencies.

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Growing Up In Your Hometown

Growing Up In Your Hometown

I wanted to circle back on the discussion I had with my friend about trying to build a connection to the motherland  when it’s so physically (and even culturally) remote for the non-national. It should probably not surprise that just as I was thinking of the idea of living where you live, Rod Dreher, one of my favorite writers, pens a post about not living where you live:

One of the lessons the admiring American writer learned from his experience was that a traveler, which is to say an outsider,  experiences the beauty of a place without having to deal with the pain of the everyday, because he can always leave. Paterniti did live in Guzman with his family for a time, so he was no mere tourist. But the vantage point his status as outsider gave him allowed him to see only what he wanted to see about life in Guzman, to project his own hopes and desires onto the little village.

But as Dreher succinctly puts it, the converse can also be true:

A funny thing about people: we often do not live where we live.

Here is a problem central to the experience of growing up in Pittsburgh or any region, really. When your experience of a particular place is tied up in family and when the centrality of that experience is also built around mundane things like going to high school and getting haircuts and grocery shopping and all the little things in life, it’s easy to overlook the greater scope of what a place can offer. All you might see is the negatives that the Frenchman in Dreher’s article sees.

I think of myself, having lunch with a friend in Paris, praising his city as a form of Arcadia, and having him say no, no, no, you don’t know what it’s like to live here. It’s not what you think, he said, then told me about the hardships that I, of course, could not see, because I was an outsider who wanted to see it as Arcadia.

Friendship (pic)

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One generation, two generation, blue generation, green generation

One generation, two generation, blue generation, green generation

One of Great Laws of the Iroquois Confederacy stated, “In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions upon the next seven generations.” It’s worth allowing that the Iroquois were, from a practical standpoint, probably never that far-sighted. Such a statement is mainly aspirational for any human being to say nothing ofRead more about One generation, two generation, blue generation, green generation[…]